April is National Financial Literacy Month and what better way to celebrate than to take this opportunity to review and upgrade your financial smarts.
What is Financial Literacy Month and why is it important?
Whether you’re just starting out or have been earning your way for quite some time, it’s never too late to learn about saving and improving your financial outlook. Developing a budget and building financial knowledge is the foundation for a brighter future.
Learning about financial literacy is not only for adults either. National Financial Literacy Month places the importance of learning about finances and the tools to learn about them right in the classroom, too. No matter their age, putting the know-how and resources at children’s fingertips will give them the power to make smart decisions now and in the future.
What began with The National Endowment for Financial Education as Youth Financial Literacy Day in 2000 has evolved into a month-long observance supported by the Jump$tart Coalition called National Financial Literacy Month. Both the House and Senate have fully supported National Financial Literacy Month through joint resolutions and the U.S. Department of Education promotes the observance of the month as well. Most recently, President Joe Biden proclaimed April National Financial Capability Month and called upon all Americans to observe the month by understanding barriers to financial well-being, and taking action to build their own financial capability and assist others to do so as well.
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Tips to improve your financial literacy
Read and inform yourself as much as you can
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If you want to take control of you financial literacy the best place to start is at the beginning by hitting the books. Start reading newspapers or magazines that focus on money matters. Check out books and guides for beginners. Financial literacy is a skill, and like any skill it takes time to learn. Treat it like a school subject or a new hobby you want to master and absorb all the knowledge you can about finances and money matters.
Make a budget and record your spending
If you want to be savvy with money budgeting is key. Having a set budget will help you estimate the amount of income and expenses for a given amount of time. There are many different kinds of budgets so you may have a weekly budget, monthly, or yearly. You could even have all three! Having a budget will help you keep track of your money and expenses and prevent overspending.
Additionally, to take this a step further, you can record your spending. Get yourself a nice little notebook or make yourself a spreadsheet and use it to keep track of all your outgoing money. Tracking how much you spend and on what will help you identify areas where you may be overspending such as takeout food or online shopping. Once you know your spending habits, you can then make efforts to improve them.
Develop a savings strategy
After learning your spending habits, you can now start curating a saving strategy that will work best for you and your lifestyle. Having savings is incredibly important, as we have all learned over the past year, because you never know when an emergency or disaster may strike. Since the pandemic hit, thousands have lost jobs and seen huge changes in their financial situations. By creating a set savings strategy you can help ensure that you will always have something to fall back on.
Use your newfound budgeting skills to create savings funds such as an emergency fund, a fund for a certain goal, or even retirement. After reviewing your fixed expenses in your budget, decide on an amount that you can set aside each month to go toward your savings fund. Once you put it in your savings, forget about it! Over time you’ll be able to accumulate a solid savings fund for your future.
Utilize financial management tools
If you need help getting started with managing your finances, financial management tools are a great addition. There is a wide variety of both free and paid tools in the marketplace that can help you manage your credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and more. Take some time to research different management tools and find one that works for you and your unique needs.
Ask advice from others or talk to a professional
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about money, seek out the wisdom of others who have already mastered the art of financial literacy. A trusted family member or friend is a great place to start. You can also speak with a financial advisor, whose job it is to help you manage your money safely. An advisor can help you create a financial plan and guide you through many of the steps toward building financial literacy.